Pope health fears: Coronavirus outbreak erupts in Vatican as cases surge

Vatican City, the sovereign state in the middle of Rome that has a population of about 618 people, has seen a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in recent days. On Thursday the city’s seventh case was confirmed, which is significant considering the city comprises just 110 acres (44 hectares). The news has prompted fears Pope Francis, aged 83, could be at risk of contracting the virus.

The Vatican has announced its seventh case of coronavirus, after an employee of the Holy See, the office of the Pope, tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee, who has not been named, was already self-isolating after his wife, who works in an Italian hospital, tested positive for the virus.

Matteo Bruni, a spokesman for the Vatican, said in a statement: “To the six cases communicated previously, there is a new case of a Holy See employee, already in isolation since mid-March because of his wife, who had tested positive for COVID-19 after serving in the Italian hospital where she works.”

In response, the Holy See press office has said they, and the Vatican City State, are adhering to strict measures in order to safeguard its staff.

A spokesman for the Holy See said: “The various bodies and departments of the Holy See and the Vatican City State continue only in essential, mandatory and unavoidable activities, clearly adopting, to the maximum extent possible, the appropriate measures already communicated, which include remote work and rostering criteria, in order to safeguard the health of staff.”

Last week it was reported a a clergyman who lives in the same residence as the Pope was hospitalised after testing positive for the virus

The news prompted the head of the Catholic Church to be tested, along with other Vatican residents, local media report.

But the Pope, and other officials who had been swabbed, all tested negative for COVID-19, according to the La Stampa and Il Messagro newspapers.

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After the clergyman was taken ill, Saint Martha’s guest house, where the Pope lives, is being deep cleaned.

A Vatican spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny the reports.

The Pope is also understood to take his meals in his private quarters and uses hand sanitiser before and after meeting any guests.

The pontiff, who was elected as head of the Catholic Church in 2013, is understood to be in good health.

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He suffers from sciatica, a nerve condition that causes hip pain and also had part of his lung removed when he was younger.

On Monday Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met with the Pope at the Vatican to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world.

The meeting was described as a private session by the Vatican, who released an official photo of the pair.

Neither the Vatican or the Italian Government have disclosed any details on what was discussed.

Italy has the world’s biggest coronavirus death toll, at 13,915 and over 115,000 confirmed cases.

The epicentre of the virus originated in the north of the country, in the Lombardy region, but has since spread to the south.

It is hoped the country has already reached its peak, and will soon see a decrease in the number of cases.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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